St. John Vianney, Crosiers. St. Claude de Colombiere, Fototeca Gilardi / Bridgeman Images. St. John of Capistrano, Crosiers

The Inspiration that Comes from Brother Priests

How to be a better and holier priest

0

I was ordained a priest in 2015, making me a relatively new and young priest. During my seminary formation, I attended the summer Institute for Priestly Formation and learned their model of priestly identity — Beloved Son, Spiritual Father, Divine Physician, Chaste Spouse and Shepherd. As a priest, those have been helpful as I strive to grow into my priestly identity.

Another help for me that I have found in priestly ministry has been looking to the example of other priests. They encourage and challenge me to become a better and holier priest. Here are several different categories of priests who inspire me in my priestly ministry.

Saintly Priests

saintsPriesthood is heroic, taking the phrase from Word on Fire’s film “Heroic Priesthood,” but it’s also true for the vocational film “Fishers of Men.” Who wasn’t inspired by the priest running from his car to the scene of an accident? Our Catholic tradition has plenty of saints who were priests and their stories are heroic, especially how they dedicated their lives to God and sometimes under adverse conditions.

In my own parish priesthood, I often think about St. John Vianney and wonder how he did what he did. As I pray my Holy Hour in the church, I think of the saints who sanctified their day in this manner. Their memory drives me forward in ministry. Who are the priest saints who inspire you? St. John Vianney? Pope St. John Paul II? St. Claude de Colombiere? St. John of Capistrano? Blessed Solanus Casey? Blessed Stanley Rother? Identify a few priest saints, read about how they lived their ministry, and allow them to inspire your priestly identity and ministry.

Preaching Priests

St. Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Bernard of Clairvaux AdobeStock

For the parish priest, preaching every weekend is a part of the job description unless you have a deacon who preaches from time to time. Even though I preach at four or five Masses on the weekend, I feel the need to be fed myself, and so I turn to other priest homily podcasts to take a look at the Scriptures from a different perspective than my own. It has helped my spirituality and my preaching, listening to other preachers break open the word. I typically will listen to Bishop Robert Barron, since he was my rector at Mundelein, and Father Larry Richards because I grew up listening to his cassette tapes when the Mary Foundation distributed his talks.

Through the power of social media, sometimes I listen to the homilies of some of my classmates and other priests I’ve only met in the Twittersphere. On average, I’ll listen to three or four homilies after the weekend is over and from those homilists I take inspiration in my priesthood and preaching.

And don’t forget about the preaching saintly priests whose sermons are preserved and ready for your spiritual edification. Consider reading the Lenten homilies of a particular saint and allow their reflections to inspire your seasonal preaching. Here are a few suggestions: St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis de Sales and St. John Henry Newman.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Venerable Fulton Sheen and the Holy Hour

SheenVenerable Fulton Sheen never missed a day of spending an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. In his autobiography, “A Treasure in Clay” (Image, $18), he relates: “So the Holy Hour, quite apart from all its positive spiritual benefits, kept my feet from wandering too far. Being tethered to a tabernacle, one’s rope for finding other pastures is not so long. That dim tabernacle lamp, however pale and faint, had some mysterious luminosity to darken the brightness of ‘bright lights.’ The Holy Hour became like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world. Even when it seemed so unprofitable and lacking in spiritual intimacy, I still had the sensation of being at least like a dog at the master’s door, ready in case he called me.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Seasoned Priests

I’ve been inspired by the priests in my own diocese who have given decades to priestly ministry. When I gather for annual events of different groups I belong to throughout the country, I am often inspired by the priestly witness of those who are more mature than I am in priestly ministry. I can think of one priest who is the most genuine and kindest priest I’ve ever met. Another who is always thanking God for blessings and graces. When I encounter their priestly witness, it forces me to look within and deal with different internal factors. Befriend retired priests and those who have served for many years and you will be inspired.

Classmates and Younger Clergy

saintsMy seminary years allowed me to foster many friendships with men from across the United States. Some I spent time in minor seminary with and others just major seminary. A few of my classmates stand out in my mind. Their witness in seminary still is something I draw upon for encouragement. One of my classmates, without doubt, would be in the chapel at 6 a.m. in the morning, doing his daily Holy Hour. His fidelity and priority to prayer is something I still recall to this day, especially on the days when I want to negotiate my personal prayer time away.

Sometimes, we can overlook our classmates or even clergy younger than us, but they also have a lot to offer. The zeal and enthusiasm of a newly ordained man can encourage us to reignite the fire within our own ministry. Spend time with them and you will be inspired in some way.

Historical Predecessors

There’s a good chance there will be a beloved pastor who served before you. His memory might still be strong in their minds and your parishioners might talk about him a lot. That’s a good sign! He made a strong impression on them and helped them in their walk with God.

One of my historical predecessors was a good friend of Blessed Solanus Casey. My predecessor was a Capuchin. Many of my parishioners have a devotion to Blessed Solanus Casey as a result.

One of the parishes that I served was primarily staffed by the Norbertine Fathers from St. Norbert Abbey in DePere, Wisconsin. While I don’t know many stories about them, I did walk through their cemetery, stopping at the graves of my predecessors, asking them to pray for the parishes they once served. And when I had a major fundraising project, which was to restore something a previous pastor had done, I visited his grave to ask for intercession.

The stories of our predecessors do not need to intimidate us. Instead, they can be sources of inspiration as we serve the next generation of the ancestors they served.

Scripture
Adobe Stock

We Need Priestly Inspiration

As priests serving the Lord and his Church, we need the witness of others to inspire us in our ministerial work. I caution you from falling into the trap, though, of comparing yourself to other priests and their successful ministries or apostolates. God has given each of his priests gifts and charisms. Their gifts and charisms might not be the same as yours, but through prayer you will come to a greater awareness of your priestly identity.

We need authentic, holy, spiritual, faithful and disciplined priests today. As we live our priestly identity, it is healthy for us to look to the example of others. Look to the example of saintly priests. Form friendships and build community among brother priests. They can help you, and hopefully our own example and witness can help them, too. 

FATHER EDWARD LOONEY is a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and a Marian theologian, author and radio personality. He is the author of “A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary, A Rosary Litany” (Sophia, $14.95) and “A Heart Like Mary’s” (Ave Maria Press, $13.95). He also hosts the podcast How They Love Mary. You can follow him on social media at @FrEdwardLooney.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Pope Francis’ encouragement

Pope Francis
CNS photo/Paul Haring

In meeting with priests on June 21, 2014, at a pastoral visit to the Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio in Italy, Pope Francis shared the joys of being a priest, and then shared the beauty of fraternity, “of being priests together, of following the Lord not alone, not one by one, but together, and also in the great variety of gifts and personalities. Indeed, this is precisely what enriches the presbyterate, this variety of background, of age, of talents…. And all lived in communion, in fraternity.

“This is neither easy nor immediate and we cannot take it for granted. First of all because even we priests are immersed in the subjectivistic overlay of today’s culture, this culture which glorifies the ‘I’ to the point of idolizing it. And then due to a certain pastoral individualism which is, unfortunately, widespread in our dioceses. This is why we have to react by choosing fraternity. I am intentionally speaking about ‘choice.’ This cannot just be left to chance, to fortuitous circumstances. … No, it’s a choice, which corresponds to the reality that constitutes us, to the gift that we have received but that must always be heard and cultivated: communion in Christ in the presbytery, around the Bishop. This communion demands to be lived by seeking concrete forms adapted to the times and to the reality of the region, but always in an apostolic perspective, with a missionary lifestyle, with fraternity and simplicity of life. When Jesus says: ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn 13:35), He is certainly saying it to everyone, but first of all to the Twelve, to those He called to follow Him more closely.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe now.
Send feedback to us at PriestFeedback@osv.com